Second, because seeing people in demographic groups is easy. Getting to know people one-by-one is hard. And helping those individuals unite on common ground – like in a church – is harder yet.
It’s so much easier to categorize people by labels like Boomer or Millennial, liberal or conservative, and create a program based on those categorizations. Especially when it used to work.
In the Boomer and Builder generations we shared so many common experiences that you could build a successful ministry using the church-by-demographics model. As long as you fit into one of the pre-designated groups, we had a great church experience for you.
If you didn’t fit into one of those groups? You were left out. (Sorry, but it’s more true than I want to admit.)
That era is going and gone. The ways we give and receive information is vast and expanding. The life choices available to us are endless. This is causing us to be splintered like never before, but it’s also opening up opportunities that have never existed.
The massive variety within our culture is nudging Christians to do church in a more first century way than the 20th century way we’re familiar with.
Stop judging people by the group we’ve put them in, and get to know them as individuals.
As long as we do that, we will be able to touch people’s lives with the good news of Jesus. But if we insist on using one-size-fits-all methods and programs, we will fail.
The Choice for Church Leaders
Church leaders have a choice, with two options:
Keep doing what we’ve been taught. What worked in a previous generation. What got us where we are, but won’t get us to the next place.
Keep designing churches and ministries that target people demographically. Keep teaching upcoming pastors that successful ministries are built by exploiting generational / cultural / socio-economic dynamics.
You might even gather a good number of Millennials that way. Because a lot of Millennials do follow the crowd. Just like their Boomer parents.
But we’ll lose far more than we’ll gain.
Get to know people as individuals. Listen first, talk later.
Stop looking for easy answers. And refuse to bite when they’re offered.
Give up on church-by-demographics and invest in people.
The Gospel Always Works
Understanding how people live their lives, receive information and build relationships is not a call to water down the gospel to the lowest common denominator.
If anything, by their stubborn refusal to be categorized, Millennials are forcing us to stop catering to them and stand up for what we believe in, since there’s no other handle to hang on to any more.
Let’s quit asking what Millennials are looking for (Boomers, Builders, and kids, too) and start living a life that draws them to Jesus.
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